SULTAN KUDARAT, Maguindanao (MindaNews/15 April) – The Army, police and Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) on Sunday vowed to work together to thwart efforts by so-called spoilers to sabotage the peace process in Mindanao.
In a kanduli or thanksgiving celebration inside the MILF’s Camp Darapanan, 6th Infantry Division commander Maj. Gen. Romeo Gapuz said he and MILF chair Al Haj Murad Ebrahim had agreed to flesh out the details of their joint effort.
Gapuz, who was joined by officers under his command and Maguindanao police director Senior Supt. Rodelio Jocson, admitted that anybody, “even soldiers,” can be “spoilers”.
After a short program, Gapuz briefly talked with Murad and other MILF commanders inside the MILF leader’s office where they agreed to work together against those who may try to sabotage the gains of the peace process.
MILF vice chair for political affairs Ghadzali Jaafar clarified however that they are willing to talk to groups considered to be potential spoilers.
At the same time Jaafar warned the public to be wary of “black propaganda” like the reported defection of four MILF brigade commanders to the Moro National Liberation.
The reports, he said, cited a certain Ustadz Pindi of the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF), who is based in Glan, Sarangani.
Saying many lives had been lost in the war, Jaafar appealed to media to observe responsible reporting and to “please get our side also if there are issues like that.”
In a media briefing Murad said he is hoping for an early implementation of the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL), which will usher in a Moro sub-state in the South that will replace the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao.
On Monday the Bangsamoro Transition Commission submitted the partial draft of the BBL to President Aquino for him to review before endorsing it to Congress as a priority bill.
Jaafar said they have also started to organize a political party which they currently call the United Bangsamoro Justice Party. But he said he could not give further details until everything is finalized.
Asked if the traditional politicians could be their allies too, he said everybody is welcome.
Gapuz said it was his first time to visit Camp Darapanan last Sunday, and that he could feel the warm welcome from the MILF community and its leaders.
“We are all brothers and sisters, it feels good that we can visit each other’s place just like a government service officer and talk issues on progress and stability,” he said.
MILF fighters lined the road in a show of military pomp as Gapuz’ convoy approached the rebel camp.
For Shariff Aguak Mayor Zahara Upam Ampatuan, whose family belongs to a MILF clan, the kanduli on Sunday that brought former enemies together was a dream come true.
Kanduli is a Maguindanaon term for thanksgiving banquet, and usually takes place on weddings, victory gatherings, burial anniversaries and celebrations after settling disputes.
In 2012, even before the signing of the Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro, Ampatuan initiated a rally where government troops, police and MILF members showed support to the peace process.
“It’s the women’s power to bring men at war into peace, that’s a mother’s instinct to her children. This kanduli gathering of meeting with former nemesis is a joint-effort we made with the wife of Chairman Murad,” she said.
In Buluan, Maguindanao last week, Gov. Esmael Mangudadatu sponsored a “kanduli” for the signing of the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro.
Grilled tilapia and bangus and roasted beef were served to the visitors.
“We don’t want to go back to the past, where violence dominates in this land. We are all products of war, we saw a lot of sufferings and shattered dreams. I hope this event will bridge [us] to a reality of our aspirations for the next generation to have a better Bangsamoro”, Mangudadatu said.
The event was attended by some 100 MILF commanders led by MILF peace panel chair Mohagher Iqbal, Jaafar and Secretary Teresita Deles of the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process.
Deles in her speech said support from the ground especially from the local government units will be crucial to the success of the signed agreement. (Ferdinandh B. Cabrera/MindaNews)